Moose Jaw hero at Dunkirk
and Fleet Tender. Sadly, less than two months after Dunkirk, on July 19, 1940, HMS Watchful was attacked and strafed in the English Channel by two German Messerschmitt 110s. AB Woodward, 2938, R.C.N, was killed in action. Crewmate, Royal Navy Able Seaman John Francis, (D/JX137299) died of his wounds later that day.
AB Woodward was the first Royal Canadian Navy member killed in action in the Second World War. He was also the first Moose Jaw man to die in the war.
The HMS Watchful was severely damaged in the attack that killed the sailor. She was run up onto a beach, repaired and saved.
It is almost certain that during the filming of the movie “Dunkirk” Rodney’s old ship, under the name Coronia, Scarborough, was part of the flotilla scene.
The following are some excerpts from the Moose Jaw Times Herald of Saturday, July 20, 1940
Rodney was born in Moose Jaw May 2, 1920. He received his public school education at the Ross and King George schools and later attended Central Collegiate Institute. His chief sports were hockey and rugby, but his main ambition was to get into the Royal Canadian Air Force, or, failing that, to join the Royal Canadian Navy.
According to his mother Rodney always retained a great interest in Moose Jaw despite his hard work and busy days as a sailor in His Majesty’s Canadian Navy. Last letter she received from him had asked for another number of copies of the Times-Herald as he liked to see what was doing “back home.” Mrs. Woodward had mailed a batch of papers to her son Friday afternoon, little knowing the tragic news that was already on its way to her home.
The telegram read, ‘The Minister of National Defence deeply egrets to inform you that your son Rodney T. Woodward, able seaman, O.N.2938, was killed in action in the North Sea. Funeral will take place July 22, 1940, at Yarmouth, England.’
Mrs. Woodward’s mother, who is 84 years of age, resides at Yarmouth and the family here wired her Saturday notice of their son’s funeral. However, Mrs. Woodward believes that the great age of her mother will prevent her attending the rites.